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Archive for the ‘Contract, Contracts’ Category

Like the proverbial farmer who hit his mule in the head with a two-by-four to get his attention, Leon “Bucky” Millet got the attention of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC) at its monthly meeting on Thursday (Aug. 11).

Millet, a retired State Police lieutenant, didn’t use a club; his weapon of choice was a tersely-worded, three-paragraph statement he read into the record in the meeting’s opening moments—a statement that called into question the very constitutionality of the board itself and the legality of any actions it has taken in recent months.

State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson also appeared before the commission to seek a promotion for Maj. Jason Starnes in order to legitimize Edmonson’s earlier appointment of Starnes as Interim Undersecretary, Custodian of Records of the Office of Management and Finance.

In another sticky matter, the board once again voted to kick the can down the road on the issue of the proposed 3 percent longevity raise for state police officers. That can was kicked down the road 30 days at the LSPC’s July meeting but this time they delayed action for 60 days.

That’s so they can continue to lobby Gov. John Bel Edwards to affix his signature to a revision to General Circular 180 of the Louisiana State Police (LSP) Uniform Pay and Classification Plan.

Bobby Jindal attempted to lock state troopers into an automatic longevity pay plan on his way out the door last November as part of his exit strategy but never signed the new plan as required by law.

But on June 1, Cathy Derbonne, LSPC Executive Director, published TRANSMITTAL SHEET NO. 58  on the LSPC Web page that pointed out that Article X, Section 48(C) of the Louisiana Constitution mandates that “any rule determination affecting wages or hours shall have the effect of law and become effective only after approval by the governor and subject to appropriation of sufficient funds by the Legislature (emphasis Derbonne’s).

“As of June 1, 2016, an approval by the Governor has not been received and there is currently insufficient funding to implement the revisions,” she wrote.

“The Revision of State Police Commission Rule Chapter 6 Uniform Pay and Classification Plan is hereby rescinded in its entirety,” she wrote (emphasis Derbonne’s). The pay plan approved by the LSPC last November is contained in GENERAL CIRCULAR 180

The proposed longevity pay plan would have given troopers raises of 3 percent per year for the last two years, or slightly more than 6 percent.

LSP currently has 18 majors and lieutenant colonels making at least $140,000 per year, or about $2.5 million. That $140,000 was up from $93,000 before the last pay raise of July 2015.

LSP payroll is currently more than $80 million. An across the board 6 percent pay raise would cost about an additional $5 million, plus retirement, medical and related benefits

at a time when state civil service employees are in their sixth year of no pay raises and at a time the state is anticipating yet another budgetary shortfall. Here is a copy of the State Police Pay Grid.

Millet’s statement that he read, which was in the form of a formal complaint, read:

Please accept this correspondence as a formal request pursuant to State Police Commission Rule Chapter 16, Investigations. I am asking for an investigation regarding the violation of the Louisiana State Constitution, Title 10, Section 43.

            Apparently the commission members, with the exception of one, were appointed in violation of the intent as well as the letter of the law in Title 10, Section 43.

            This would bring into question, what constitutional authority does this commission have to act in any official capacity, including any official acts taken at the July 14 (2016) commission meeting?

In his complaint, Millet was reference Article X, Part IV, Section 43(C) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974 which stipulates the following:

  • The presidents of Centenary College at Shreveport, Dillard University at New Orleans, Louisiana College at Pineville, Loyola University at New Orleans, Tulane University of Louisiana at New Orleans, and Xavier University at New Orleans, after giving consideration to representation of all groups, each shall nominate three persons. The governor shall appoint one member of the commission from the three persons nominated by each president. One member of the commission shall be elected by the classified state police officers of the state from their number as provided by law. A vacancy for any cause shall be filled by appointment or election in accordance with the procedure or law governing the original appointment or election, and from the same source. Within thirty days after a vacancy occurs, the president concerned shall submit the required nominations. Within thirty days thereafter, the governor shall make his appointment. If the governor fails to appoint within thirty days, the nominee whose name is first on the list of nominees automatically shall become a member of the commission. If any nominating authority fails to submit nominees in the time required, or if one of the named institutions ceases to exist, the governor shall make the appointment to the commission.

LouisianaVoice had earlier made a public records requests for any such letters of nominations from the university presidents. Only a single letter from Centenary College President Kenneth Schwab to then-Gov. Mike Foster dated Jan. 15, 2003, was provided.

Upon hearing Millet read his complaint, Taylor Townsend, the Natchitoches attorney and former State Senator under contract to the commission to conduct the investigation into the LSTA funneling campaign money through its executive director to several political candidates in violation of state law, said, “We need to go into executive session.”

Commission member Jared J Caruso-Riecke immediately the motion and the commission voted unanimously to go into closed session. At that point, I asked the reason for the executive session.

“We don’t have to give a reason,” replied Townsend.

“Yes, you do, it’s the law,” I said, referencing Louisiana Revised Statute 42:16 which says, in part: “…the reason for holding such an executive session shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the meeting.”

Townsend hesitated for a moment and then said, “It’s to discuss personnel matters.”

That seemed rather odd in that the only “personnel matters” to have come before the board was Millet’s complaint about the legality of the board itself. Apparently, they went behind closed doors to talk about themselves.

Edmonson’s appearance before the commission was to correct his promotion of Starnes to Interim Undersecretary in violation of state police regulations. As a classified employee, Starnes was ineligible for promotion to a non-state police service position. By promoting him to lieutenant colonel, he moves into an unclassified position where he will be in direct supervision of his ex-wife, Tammy, an Audit Manager for LSP.

Starnes, who has no degree and who has no experience in accounting, will sign off on all expenditures in Management and Finance and was promoted into that position over Deputy Undersecretary Erin Bielkiewicz who is a CPA.

He succeeds Jill Boudreaux to the position. Boudreaux retired (again) in February after her faux-retirement-rehire in April 2010 in order to take advantage of a retirement buyout incentive offered by the state. She was able to pocket about $59,000 and return to work two days after her first “retirement.” She was ordered to repay the money, but never did. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/08/24/edmonson-not-the-first-in-dps-to-try-state-ripoff-subterfuge-undersecretary-retiresre-hires-keeps-46k-incentive-payout/

By putting Starnes into the position over the more qualified Bielkiewicz, Edmonson further shores up his fiefdom by placing his most trusted personnel in key positions within the State Police hierarchy.

Just another routine day for LouisianaVoice while sniffing around LSP headquarters.

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quid pro quo

ˌkwid ˌprō ˈkwō/

noun

A favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.

Unless decisive action it taken over the next few days, our theory that nothing gets done about official chicanery, shady dealings and outright corruption will have been validated at the highest levels of state government.

And lest there are those who think I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, let me assure them that I will keep pounding the keyboard as long as I am physically and mentally able to put the glare of the spotlight on them and their deeds.

At one point in 2015, someone said to me, “Once Bobby Jindal leaves office, you won’t have anything to write about.”

Not a chance.

Unfortunately, as long as politicians are intoxicated by money and power, there will be plenty to write about. And, as Johnny Mathis sang his song The Twelfth of Never, “that’s a long, long time.”

Take Kristy Nichols, for example. Someone, please. (Sorry, Henny Youngman.)

Or, just for fun, compare the strikingly similar cases of Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Kristy, as LouisianaVoice reported last September, jumped the Jindal ship to join Ochsner Health System as Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs (read: lobbyist).

https://louisianavoice.com/2015/09/17/more-on-kristys-new-job-it-seems-ochsner-gets-17-6-million-for-running-chabert-hospital/

The only problem with that was that as Commissioner of Administration for Jindal, she presided over virtually every facet of state government except the legislative and judicial branches, but worked closely with those as well. State law prohibited her from lobbying the administrative and legislative branches but apparently there was nothing to prevent her from lobbying local governmental entities.

On November 5, 2015, less than two months following our story, Kimberly L. Robinson, an attorney with the Jones Walker law firm, acting on behalf of Ochsner, requested an advisory opinion on the question of whether or not Kristy could legally lobby the state.

A month later, Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards named Robinson as the new Secretary of the Department of Revenue, prompting her resignation from Jones Walker.

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/12/john_bel_edwards_appoints_kimb.html

Robinson was replaced by R. Gray Sexton as counsel for Kristy.

Sexton was an obvious choice, given his years as Chief Administrator for the Louisiana Board of Ethics. His knowledge of the system was so keen that in 2007, he pulled his own end-run when he resigned and the board immediately rehired him in a new capacity which allowed him to skirt a requirement under a newly-passed ethics law that he disclose clients in his private law practice (how’s that for irony?).

http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/07/ethics_administrator_quits_the.html

But back to Kristy’s dilemma.

On December 16, Sexton submitted a request to the ethics board to withdraw the request for an advisory opinion. Then, on January 22, 2016, Sexton submitted an Application for Declaratory Opinion on behalf of Kristy. That was followed by a request to withdraw the Application for Declaratory Opinion on March 31. The board granted the request to withdraw at its April 15 meeting.

The chronology was provided to LouisianaVoice in an e-mail Tuesday (Aug. 2) from Deborah S. Grier, Executive Secretary for the Board of Ethics. Here is that email:

——– Original message ——–

From: Deborah Grier <Deborah.Grier@LA.GOV>

Date: 8/2/16 9:14 AM (GMT-06:00)

To: azspeak@cox.net

Subject: RE: Opinion on Kristy Nichols: Public Records Requests

Good morning, Mr. Aswell:

Pursuant to your public records request of July 29, 2016 regarding an opinion issued by the Board with respect to former Commission of Administration Kristy Nichols’ employment as a lobbyist by Ochsner Health System, please be advised of the following:

A request for an advisory opinion dated November 5, 2015 was submitted by Kimberly L. Robinson with the Jones Walker law firm on behalf of Ochsner Health System and Kristy Nichols.  Ms. Robinson subsequently left the private practice of law and was replaced by R. Gray Sexton as counsel for Ms. Nichols as indicated in correspondence to our office from Mr. Sexton dated December 11, 2015.  On December 16, 2015, a request to withdraw the request for an advisory opinion was submitted to our office.  The Board considered and granted the request to withdraw the request for an advisory opinion at its December 18, 2015 meeting.

 Mr. Sexton, by correspondence dated January 22, 2016, submitted to the Board an Application for Declaratory Opinion on behalf of Ms. Nichols.  A request to withdraw the Application for Declaratory Opinion was received by this office on March 31, 2016.  The Board considered and granted the request to withdraw the Application for Declaratory Opinion at its April 15, 2016 meeting.
No opinion has been rendered by the Board with respect to this issue.
Should you have any questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,
Deborah

Deborah S. Grier
Executive Secretary
Louisiana Board of Ethics

So, what does all that mean?

Could it be that Ochsner and Kristy have decided to let sleeping dogs lie? After all, if she proceeds with lobbying efforts and no one files an official complaint, then it’s no harm, no foul, right? That would certainly run true to form for Jindal’s Gold Standard of Ethics.

A quick check by LouisianaVoice, however, revealed that Kristy is not registered among any of Ochsner Health System’s 10 lobbyists. Sexton told LouisianaVoice today that Ochsner had apparently decided not to pursue the matter and it was his understanding that the company was pursuing “other plans” for Nichols. “Ochsner has a number of other lobbyists,” he said.

So if she is not a registered lobbyist, then just what is it that she does to earn her keep as Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs?

Or was her employment simply some form of payback as we initially suggested in light of the $31 million Ochsner received in takeover of the Leonard Chabert Medical Center by Southern Regional Medical Corp. and Ochsner as part of Jindal’s haphazard state hospital privatization plan?

https://tomaswell.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/terms-of-the-ochsner-deal-at-leonard-chabert-medical-center.pdf

We’d no sooner received Ms. Grier’s email on Tuesday than the Baton Rouge Advocate posted a couple of stories, also on Tuesday, that caught our eye.

The first involved a claim by Gonzales City Council candidate Wayne Lawson that Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa and Gonzales businessman Olin Berthelot attempted to bribe him not to seek a city council seat against incumbent Neal Bourque.

The Pelican Post news website first published the report that Matassa and Berthelot had offered Lawson $1,200 and a parish job if he would withdraw from the race. The deadline to withdraw was last Friday (July 29) at noon. Lawson, after posing for a photograph with the cash, a parish job application form and candidate withdrawal forms, returned the money and documents to Berthelot’s office without completing either of the forms.

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/communities/ascension/article_d9fda80a-58df-11e6-884c-d3779607197c.html

Ricky Babin, District Attorney for the 23rd Judicial District, said his office would investigate Lawson’s claims. He said the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office are also investigating the allegations.

The Attorney General’s Office may be in something of a quandary as it embarks on that investigation, however.

The second Baton Rouge Advocate story, by reporter Gordon Russell, conjured up the ethics complained filed against Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_6f7a7990-58e9-11e6-9cd1-a36f0eb42bbf.html

https://tomaswell.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/ethics-complaint.pdf

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/03/between-beating-guilty-pleas-sexual-harassment-lawsuit-and-ethics-complaint-iberia-sheriff-louis-ackal-has-his-plate-full/

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/03/09/one-week-after-louisianavoice-story-feds-hand-down-three-count-indictment-of-iberia-parish-sheriff-ackal-top-deputy/

In his story, Russell said that Landry, after trailing incumbent Buddy Caldwell by two percentage points in the primary election for Attorney General last October, received the endorsement of third place finisher Geri Broussard Baloney of Garyville in St. John the Baptist Parish, who had polled 18 percent.

With her endorsement in his back pocket, Landry, a former U.S. Representative, easily won the November runoff over Caldwell (who can forget Caldwell’s concession speech?). Soon thereafter, Baloney’s daughter, Quendi Baloney, was given a $53,000-a-year job by Landry.

At the time of her hire, all would-be employees of the AG’s office were required to sign a form agreeing to background checks and were also asked, in writing, if they had any criminal record.

In her case, she did. In 1999, she was charged with 11 felony counts of credit card fraud and theft, eventually pleading guilty to three counts, according to court records from Henrico County, Virginia. She was sentenced to six years in prison, all of it suspended.

Her new job? Well, it’s in the AG’s fraud section. More irony.

But in the end, her background is of less interest, given that her conviction was 17 years ago, than the fact that she was given her job as apparent payback for her mom’s endorsement of Landry following the first primary election in October.

A spokesperson for the AG’s office, Russell wrote, did not respond to questions about whether other candidates had applied for Quendi Baloney’s job or whether Landry had hired any other convicted felons.

For her part, Quendi Baloney told The Advocate that her arrest and conviction were “devastating,” but had made her a “stronger, harder-working ethical adult…”

She forwarded to The Advocate a link to the state’s new “Ban the Box” law which prevents state agencies from asking applicants about their criminal records. That law, however, did not take effect until after she was hired.

It’s going to be more than a little interesting to see how Landry’s investigation of Matassa and Berthelot unfolds in light of the same day’s revelations about his own actions.

But we’re willing to wager that when the dust settles on the issues of Matassa, Berthelot, Nichols, Ackal (the state ethics complaint, not the federal indictment) and Baloney, we’ll still be able to say:

Nothing gets done.

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Business Wire, an online business news publication and part of Warren Buffett’s vast Berkshire Hathaway Company, posted an interesting story on Tuesday (July 12) that, thanks to our friend and sometimes contributing writer Stephen Winham, prompted LouisianaVoice to dive into our ubiquitous resource of public records.

What we found was of considerable interest.

It seems that our former governor was/is not above accepting generous campaign contributions from those doing business with the State of Louisiana.

But we knew that already as evidenced by the scores of stories we’ve posted on this site about his cozy financial relationship with vendors.

But then on Tuesday, Business Wire posted a story from Katy, Texas, announcing that Cotton Holdings, Inc. “is pleased to announce that it has added Bobby Jindal, the 55th Governor of the State of Louisiana, to the Board of Directors.”

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160712006179/en/Cotton-Holdings-Elects-Bobby-Jindal-Board-Directors

Okay, so what’s the big deal? Lots of politicians retire from office only to (a) join some lobbyist firm at an enormous salary, (b) join the public speaking circuit at incredibly high fees, or (c) join some corporate board of directors at an obscenely huge salary.

Former presidents George Bush the Elder and Bill Clinton capitalized in a big way on the speaking tour, pocketing millions of dollars. Former President Gerald Ford accepted high-paying positions on the boards of 20th Century-Fox, Primerica, and American Express. Gen. Douglas MacArthur joined the Rand Corp. board after being fired by President Truman.

Truman, on the other hand, refused to play the game. He consistently rejected offers to make commercial endorsements, to engage in lobbying, or to accept “consulting fees.” Offered a position on a corporate board, he is said to have tersely replied, “You don’t want me. You want the office of the president, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it’s not for sale.”

The accuracy of that quote has never been verified, but he did write in his 1960 book, Mr. Citizen: “I turned down all of those offers. I knew that they were not interested in hiring Harry Truman, the person, but what they wanted to hire was the former President of the United States. I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and the dignity of the office of the Presidency.”

Not so, apparently, with “Mr. Ethics,” the man who claims to have given Louisiana the “gold standard” of good government.

Here’s what Pete Bell, founder and CEO of Cotton Holdings, had to say about his firm’s newest director:

“Having known and worked with Bobby (first name basis, wouldn’t you know?) over the past several years, I am very pleased to now have him join the board as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the company…I am confident that Bobby’s vast expertise and depth of knowledge of government, coupled with his extensive commercial experience (what!!!???), will add tremendous value to the company and, ultimately, our shareholders.”

Jindal’s “extensive commercial experience” consists of approximately 11 months’ employment with McKinsey & Co. It’s the only time he has worked in the private sector in his entire life. Bobby must have crammed a lot of his “extensive commercial experience” into those 11 months.

Cotton Holdings Board Chairman Naveen Bhatia added, “We are excited to expand the board of Cotton with another world-class director with specific domain expertise and who will continue to drive the growth of our various businesses. Whether it is his experience in attracting $60 billion of private capital to Louisiana, including the petrochemical industry which is a growth engine for Cotton, or his operational expertise across our business lines, our board and management are looking forward to having a problem solver (snicker, chortle, guffaw) of Bobby’s caliber joining the team and assisting in our continued goal of maximizing shareholder value.”

Headquartered in Katy, Cotton Holdings is an infrastructure support services firm which provides property restoration and recovery construction, roofing, consulting, temporary workforce staffing and housing and culinary services to public and private entities throughout the U.S. in support of disaster events and complex work environments of the petrochemical and oil and gas industries, the Business Wire news release says.

CORPORATE REPORT

So, how is it that Cotton founder Pete Bell has “known and worked with Bobby over the past several years”?

That’s what we at LouisianaVoice wanted to know and rule number one is to always follow the money. Rule two: see rule one.

Well, it turns out that Cotton had a couple of pretty nice CONTRACTS with the State of Louisiana. Together, the two contracts totaled more than $2.2 million.

The larger of the two contracts was for $1.965 million but we were unable to check the dates of that expired contract since the state’s Web page for state contracts would not allow access to the details of that contract. The smaller contract, however, for $295,453, did allow access and revealed that the contract was for just 22 days in 2006. It called for mold remediation in a building at Delgado Community College in New Orleans.

In checking campaign finance records, we also find that four Cotton BOARD OFFICERS’ campaign contributions to Jindal’s state political campaigns totaled more than $29,500 between January 2007 and October 2012—after the smaller of the two contracts was awarded, it should be noted. But even though Jindal had no hand in awarding at least one of the contracts, classified employees are prohibited by the State Ethics Commission from accepting the smallest of gifts from vendors, so why should that same rule not apply to elected officials?

Records reveal that Bell contributed $5,000 on Oct. 8, 2009. CFO Bryan Michalsky and COO Randall Thompson gave $5,000 each the following day. Two weeks later Bhatia chipped in $5,000 to go with the $4,000 he gave on Sept. 5, 2007; the $3,000 contributed in cash and an additional $1,594.28 in in-kind contributions (food for a campaign event) on Oct. 25, 2012, and $1,000 on Jan. 31, 2007.

Because we are unable to access the larger contract to determine the beginning and end dates, it is impossible to determine whether that contract or the campaign contributions came first.

The campaign contributions aside, has Jindal hung a “For Sale” sign on the governor’s office as he did several state agencies during his tenure? Apparently so.

Unlike Truman, he has shown no reluctance in capitalizing on and profiting from his eight disastrous years as governor. Even as the bankrupt state struggles to overcome his wholesale carnage and to provide needed services to its citizens, this self-anointed paragon of virtue finds ways to reap financial rewards for himself. We submitted a request to Cotton for his salary as the company’s newest board member but to no one’s surprise, there was no response. Funny how eager Cotton was to get the announcement out on Bobby’s appointment but is suddenly silent on his compensation package.

How many other board positions has Jindal accepted since leaving office? How many others will he accept in the future? Who knows? We’ve already seen that he is a shameless opportunist. Cotton may well be not the only corporate entity eager to bring Jindal on board to prostitute the office of governor; it may just be the only one to make a public announcement.

We will probably never see another congressman like former Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, who holds the record for the longest tenure as House Speaker (17 years), started out in the Texas Legislature. He was a member of the Steger, Thurmond and Rayburn Law Firm at the time and while serving, he refused to accept fees from clients with interests before the legislature because he said was a servant of the people of Fannin County. Later, as a member of Congress, a wealthy oil man delivered an expensive horse to Rayburn’s farm in Bonham, Texas. Though only the two men and a Rayburn staff member knew about it, Rayburn promptly returned the horse. He always paid his own travel expenses—even on a trip to the Panama Canal when his committee was considering legislation concerning the canal.

When he died in 1961, his entire estate was valued at just under $300,000, most of which was land he owned. The amount of cash that he had in various checking accounts was just over $26,000. Compare that to Jindal, who became a multi-millionaire during his brief, three-year stint in Congress and who owns home in a gated Baton Rouge community valued at almost a million dollars.

All of which should make each of us sit back and wonder whatever became of the idealistic, patriotic concept of public service? Why do our elected officials—Billy Tauzin, Bennett Johnston, Bob Livingston, Richard Baker, John Breaux (to name only former Louisiana politicians)—use their positions of public trust as a springboard to greater wealth and power as professional lobbyists whose duty it seems to be to work for the enrichment of their corporate clients as opposed to the benefit of their former constituents?

Worse yet, why do we as the taxpaying citizens allow it? Why is it there has been no groundswell of public sentiment for strict, binding laws prohibiting the seamless transition from congressman to paid corporate whore?

We didn’t create the monster but we certainly allowed our representatives to worship at the altar of greed and influence and to grow into the destructive agents they have become.

And now you can add your knight in tarnished armor, Piyush Jindal, to that ever-growing list of non-official hogs at the public trough.

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During the Bobby Jindal years in Louisiana, it was well documented that seats on prestigious boards and commissions were the rewards for generous campaign contributions.

Seats on the LSU Board of Supervisors, the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome), or various levee boards came at a price and those who wanted the seats ponied up. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/11/bobby_jindals_political_appoin.html

Even the job of monitoring Louisiana’s hundreds of boards and commissions went to the director of the Committee to Re-Elect Bobby for an eight-month period from mid-October, 2012 to June 28, 2013, thus insuring that board appointees would do the bidding of the governor.

That, apparently, is the way politics work just about everywhere.

In Florida, a large enough campaign contribution can even buy justice—or stymie justice, as the case may be.

Pam Bondi, attorney general in the Sunshine State (talk about a misnomer), solicited—and received—a $25,000 contribution from the Donald Trump Foundation and once the check cleared, she promptly dropped her office’s investigation of Trump University, conveniently citing insufficient grounds to proceed. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/florida-ag-asked-trump-donation-075016133.html

And in Bossier City, less than $20,000 in campaign contributions has smoothed the way for the transfer of the city’s water and sewer department to a private Baton Rouge firm—at a first-year cost of more than $1 million to the city, and the loss of about 40 jobs in the department.

http://www.ksla.com/story/32159296/public-private-partnership-in-bossier-city-threatens-dozens-of-jobs

http://www.ktbs.com/story/32163755/bossier-city-council-considers-privatizing-water-sewer-operations

Word has been filtering down to LouisianaVoice for some time now that Caddo Parish is the new New Orleans in terms of political corruption. Apparently elected officials across the Red River have been paying attention to both Caddo Parish and to Bobby Jindal’s love of privatization as well as his thirst for campaign contributions.

The city council voted unanimously Tuesday (June 6) afternoon to approve the PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT with Manchac Consulting Group out of Baton Rouge.

Typical of the seemingly growing penchant of public officials for operating out of earshot of the public, more than 100 employees of the Water and Sewer Department have been told nothing over the last several months of negotiations. City officials have refused to provide information to workers even though an organizational chart proposed by Manchac reflects half the current staffing in some departments.

On Tuesday, the vote was 7-0 to approve a five-year contract with Manchac Consulting to oversee the city water and sewer treatment plants, distribution lines and daily operations at a first-year cost of a little more than $1 million the first year, including $120,000 upon city officials’ signing the contract.

Campaign finance reports show that at-large council member David Montgomery received $2500 from Manchac, $2500 from its CEO Justin Haydel, $2500 from Atakapa Construction Group, which includes Haydel and Manchac President Kenneth Ferachi as officers, $2500 from Manchac Senior Project Manager Christopher LaCroix, and $999 from Ferachi—a total of $10,999.

Council member Scott Irwin received $500 each ($2000 total) from Atakapa, Ferachi, Haydel and Manchac Consulting Group.

Bossier City Mayor Lorenz “Lo” Walker received $6,644 total, including $2500 from Manchac Consulting, $3,144 from Haydel (including $2,144 in an in-kind contribution for a fundraising dinner in Baton Rouge), and $1000 from Atakapa Construction.

An Associated Press story pointed out that the Trump family foundation contribution, received by a political group supporting Bondi’s re-election, was received on September 17, 2013 and was in “apparent violation” of rules regulating political activities by charities.

But hey, what’s a little obstacle like a federal law when you’re trying to buy your way out of trouble? It was The Donald himself, after all, who is on record as saying he expects and receives favors from politicians to whom he gives money.

The commitment to pay Manchac more than $1 million over the next 12 months may be completely above-board—we hope so, anyway—but taken in context with the way city officials kept their own employees in the dark even as the mayor and two council members took contributions from the prospective vendor, it just doesn’t look good. And, as they say: perception is everything.

Public employees, after all, are prohibited—as they should be—from accepting anything of monetary value from vendors or contractors. So why should elected officials be held to a completely different (read: double) standard of ethical behavior?

Before we leave this topic, it should be pointed out that politicians will only do what they can get away with. If the voters lower the bar, then our public officials will respond accordingly. Only if we demand accountability, will officials be accountable. A compliant legislature not held accountable by voters allowed Jindal to rape this state for eight years. Likewise, our failure to insist on statesmanship instead of demagoguery, decorum instead of buffoonery, serious discussion of the issues instead of meaningless rhetoric, sanity instead of hysteria, has created candidates like Donald Trump.

If we consistently look the other say and say that’s just the way it is, that’s the way it will always be.

And we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

We will have done it to ourselves.

 

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A lobbyist with close ties to former Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Troy Hebert has been indicted by a Baton Rouge federal grand jury on more than 30 counts of bestiality and distribution and possession of child pornography. http://news.co.cr/u-s-owner-costa-rica-hotel-faces-online-child-porn-charges/47325/

Christopher G. Young, 53, a prominent lobbyist for the Beer Industry League of Louisiana, is also a brother to former Jefferson Parish President and assistant prosecutor John Young who was an unsuccessful candidate for Lieutenant Governor last fall.

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1697&dat=20030620&id=bCgqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=MUgEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6713,2339971&hl=en

Young is part owner of a hotel in the Central American country of Costa Rica where he was a frequent visitor on business and vacation trips, says Costa Rica Star reporter Jaime Lopez. The indictment says Young received two videos depicting prepubescent boys engaged in bestiality from an associate in that country. From from 2013 through 2015, Young then distributed the pornographic videos to 38 different individuals on 33 separate occasions via his cellphones, the indictment says.

Young is a registered lobbyists for a number of interests, most of which have strong ties to the alcohol and entertainment interests in Louisiana. Young was listed as Executive director of the Louisiana Association of Beverage Alcohol Licensees for which he also was listed as a lobbyist.

Here is a list of Young’s lobbying clients provided by the State Board of Ethics:

CHRISTOPHER GERARD YOUNG
2016: Local / Legislative / Executive
P.O. BOX 55297
METAIRIE, LOUISIANA 70055
504-915-5953
DAVID BRIGGS ENTERPRISES, INC.
Legislative / Executive
Active: 1/25/2009 – current
641 PAPWORTH AVENUE
METAIRIE, LOUISIANA 70005
BEER INDUSTRY LEAGUE OF LOUISIANA
Legislative / Executive
Active: 1/25/2009 – current
575 N. 8TH STREET
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA 70802
LOUISIANA ASSOCIATION OF BEVERAGE ALCOHOL LICENSEES, INC.
Legislative / Executive
Active: 1/25/2009 – current
P.O. BOX 55012
METAIRIE, LOUISIANA 70055
WINE AND SPIRITS FOUNDATION OF LOUISIANA, INC.
Legislative / Executive
Active: 1/25/2009 – current
575 N. 8TH STREET
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA 70802
TIPITINA’S FOUNDATION, INC.
Legislative / Executive
Active: 1/25/2009 – current
4040 TULANE AVENUE, SUITE 8000
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA 70119
RXPATH
Legislative / Executive
Active: 1/23/2012 – current
641 PAPWORTH
METAIRIE, LOUISIANA 70005
FRENCH QUARTER BUSINESS LEAGUE
Legislative / Local
Active: 4/1/2014 – current
119 MULBERRY DRIVE
METAIRIE, LOUISIANA 70005

I attempted to obtain a comment from one of Young’s biggest clients, the Louisiana Beer Industry League. When I called the number, we had to navigate the usual menu. We were given options to dial different extension numbers to reach Executive Director John Williams, office representatives Nicole Patel and Toni Villa (titles unknown), and finally, Chris Young.

After punching the number for Young, I got several rings and then a voicemail for his extension number (no name). I called back three more times and in succession, punched the numbers for Williams, Patel and Villa. I got only Williams’ voice mail and with Patel’s number, I was routed back to the main menu so I then punched Villa’s number and, voila! She answered. After identifying myself and telling her who I was with, the conversation unfolded this way (my questions in italics; her answers in boldface type):

“I was calling for a comment on the indictment of Chris Young.”

“We have no comment at this time.”

“Is he still employed by the Beer League?”

“He is not an employee.”

“As of when?”

“He has never been an employee.”

“He’s not?” (I’m thinking of that menu option for Young’s telephone extension.)

“He’s a contractor.”

“Is he still under contract?”

“We have no comment.”

So all I got was he (a) is not an employee, he (b) is/was a contractor, but he (c) does/did have his own telephone extension at the Louisiana Beer Industry League.

In addition to his lobbying activities, Young also serves as  legal counsel for most, if not all, bars and restaurants coming before ATC for permits to sell alcohol.

One source told LouisianaVoice that after Hebert was named to succeed Murphy Painter as ATC Commissioner, “Young never showed his face at a hearing on permit requests.”

The source, a former ATC agent, said Young was required to appear at the ATC hearings to represent his clients during Painter’s tenure but when Hebert became commissioner, “everything was done behind closed doors.”

How did Young come to represent virtually all applicants for permits to sell alcohol?

Well, it’s easy when you have a close relative in the right place to help.

Chris Young’s sister, Judy Pontin, was installed by Hebert as a $71,000-a-year “Executive Management Officer” for ATC’s New Orleans office in November of 2013. As such, she is in a perfect position to help her brother.

ATC insiders told LouisianaVoice that when an establishment wants to apply for an alcohol permit, or whenever a business experiences problems with ATC, Pontin invariably refers them to Chris Young for legal representation.

We covered that angle back in February when we learned that Hebert intervened in an investigation by ATC agents into a fatal accident in which a man with a blood alcohol content of .307 percent (more than 3½ higher than the .08 percent legal definition of intoxication in Louisiana) and driving at a high rate of speed, struck two bicyclists, killing Nathan Crowson and severely injuring his riding companion, Daniel Morris.

Branch, who had a previous DWI conviction in 2006 and was given a six-month suspended sentence on that occasion, was convicted of vehicular homicide and first degree vehicular negligent injuring and sentenced to 7½ years in prison.

http://theadvocate.com/news/11878236-123/baton-rouge-man-joseph-branch

There remained the issue of whether or not The Bulldog, a bar where Branch had been drinking with two friends just before the accident, might be legally liable for continuing to serve Branch after it was evident that he was intoxicated.

Anytime there is an alcohol-related auto accident involving a fatality, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) investigates whether or not the driver had been served alcohol after it was obvious he was intoxicated. Such customers are supposed to be eighty-sixed, or cut off from being served more alcohol.

The investigation, which would routinely require weeks upon weeks of interviews, document and video review and which normally produce written reports 30 to 40 pages in length, was unusually short in duration and produced a report of a single page.

One page that completely exonerated the bar of any violation.

http://www.wbrc.com/story/16903763/bar-cleared-in-fatal-crash

Initially, two ATC agents, neither of whom now work for the agency, began the investigation by requesting a video of the night in question to determine if Branch displayed any obvious signs of intoxication. They also asked owners of The Bulldog, located on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge, for certain other documents and information, including copies of any and all receipts of alcoholic beverages purchased by Branch.

When the bar initially refused to cooperate, the agents who customarily investigate such cases, obtained a subpoena and served it on the bar.

Enter ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert who, as it happens, is a declared candidate to succeed David Vitter in this year’s election for U.S. Senate.

In an unprecedented move, Hebert, who had zero experience as an investigator, decided he would be the lead investigator of the Bulldog.

What possible motive would Hebert have in rushing through an investigation and issuing a press release on Feb. 9 absolving the bar of any responsibility? Why would he instruct the lead agent on the case to limit his report to one page?

Why would Hebert watch the video footage for only a few seconds before proclaiming he “saw nothing” there? Why not watch the entire video to see if Branch did, in fact, appear intoxicated?

Even more curious, why would Hebert instruct that same agent to return to The Bulldog and retrieve the subpoena the agent had served on the establishment for video and records, thus freeing the bar of any responsibility to turn over key records?

Is it possible that the answer to each of these questions can consist of two words?

Might those two words be Chris Young?

Chris Young was the legal counsel for The Bulldog prior to and throughout the ATC investigation. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/02/10/why-did-atc-commissioner-troy-hebert-intervene-as-lead-investigator-in-fatal-accident-was-it-to-protect-bar-owner/

Baton Rouge television station WAFB said in its online story about the Young pornography indictment that the case “is being investigated by the FBI.” http://www.wafb.com/story/31961141/baton-rouge-attorney-indicted-for-allegedly-distributing-bestiality-porn

LouisianaVoice said in January that the FBI was investigating Hebert for claims that he used his office to extort sex from a female restaurant manager in New Orleans in exchange for fixing her licensing problems. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/01/26/fbi-said-investigating-troy-hebert-for-using-office-to-extort-sex-from-woman-in-exchange-for-fixing-licensing-problems/

All of which leaves two unanswered questions:

  • Are we talking about two separate FBI investigations or is there only one and the Young indictment only the first of more to come?
  • Was Young indicted in order bring pressure upon him to implicate others further up the food chain?

Only time will provide the answers to those questions.

But one thing is for certain: If Hebert were a serious candidate for U.S. Senate, with even a ghost of a chance for election, you can bet his opponents in this fall’s election would be in a scramble mode today for records, reports and witnesses—anything to tie Hebert to this latest sordid affair, considering his close association with Young.

But in all likelihood, none of the candidates feel that sense of urgency.

 

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